The need for urgent action on how we care for our older people is undisputed, says Baroness Finlay of Llandaff.
Report after report has detailed the sometimes shocking treatment in our hospitals and care homes. As a consultant physician of palliative medicine, I see first hand examples of extremely good and sensitive practice that recognises the intrinsic value and worth of each person and focuses on their needs. But we all know about far too many examples of poor care to dismiss them as isolated incidents. Something has to be done.
Today I am asking the government how they will implement the recommendations in the report Delivering Dignity published this morning.
The report is from a Commission setup by the NHS Confederation, the Local Government Association, and Age UK to look at how the NHS and social care can improve the care that is provided to older people in
The recommendations in this report are welcome, as is the way in which the health and social care system has come together to take responsibility for this problem.
As Delivering Dignity says, we must fundamentally change the culture and attitudes within our hospitals and care homes. The responsibility for care delivery lies with the individuals in these organisations. But government must set the agenda for change; its response to the report is key to tackling the problems.
The secretary of state for health needs to send a clear and unambiguous message to hospitals and care homes that delivering dignified care to older people must be a priority. The government recently established a Nursing and Care Quality Forum to examine a number of issues in nursing. There would be benefit in widening the Forum's membership and scope to encompass care home staff who are often poorly paid, have little or no training or support, and are not subject to statutory regulation.
Without ensuring an adequately trained and supervised workforce and without harnessing other areas of support in the community it is difficult to see how change will be achieved.
The report also highlights a problem with wider society. Increasingly, we see older people as a cost and a burden on society, disregarding their views in the design and delivery of public and private services.
It is extremely important that the government leads a change of attitude and starts a positive debate about our ageing society. We must celebrate that people can live well for longer and harness their experience for the benefit of us all. I look forward to the Government's response.